Archipelago: Volume 64

Project

Archipelago by Volume64 (Lloyd Lee, Sabrina Syed & contributors) is an exploration into the imaginary of micro-typologies – as portrayed in a series of 4x4x4m cubes that respond to a series of experimental briefs .

Ungers, O. M. 1975. Roosevelt Island Housing Competition
Ungers, O. M. 1975. Roosevelt Island Housing Competition
Eisenman Architects. 1971. Concept Drawing For House iii. Image.
Eisenman Architects. 1971. Concept Drawing For House iii. Image.
Bayer, Herbert. 1923. Isometric Rendering Of The Director’s Office In Bauhaus.
Bayer, Herbert. 1923. Isometric Rendering Of The Director’s Office In Bauhaus.
Botta, Mario. 1986. House – Morbio Inferiore.
Botta, Mario. 1986. House – Morbio Inferiore.
Rietveld, Gerrit. 1924. Schröder House Isometric Drawing. Image.
Rietveld, Gerrit. 1924. Schröder House Isometric Drawing. Image.
Gatti, Alberto, and Diambra Gatti. 1967. L’Archittetura. Image.
Gatti, Alberto, and Diambra Gatti. 1967. L’Archittetura. Image.
Wilhite, Steve. 1987. The First GIF
Wilhite, Steve. 1987. The First GIF
Nikon. 1993.
Nikon. 1993. "F-3 Exploded Schematic". Parts List. Tokyo.
Eadweard Muybridge, 1872-1885, Bactrian camel; Walking, Image
Eadweard Muybridge, 1872-1885, Bactrian camel; Walking, Image

Interview

What prompted the project?

Volume64 started as a series of conversations between students. It developed into an initiative to challenge the homogeneity of micro-typologies. For example, we wanted to question why all bedrooms looked the same across the world. The standard bedroom contains the same repeated elements devoid of cultural particularity. Many small typologies such as this were being faced with the same issue of homogenization, especially across cities where merit of standardisation outweighed existing cultural specificity. Our goal became experimenting with this condition under fixed parameters.

What is for you the power of the image within architectural discourse?

For the platform, an architectural image reveals potential: a cube image is what the ‘bedroom’ could be, how you might find a ‘public bathroom’ one day or what you wish the ‘director’s office’ to look like. An image also has a unique power to convey a story visually, however small in scale. Uniformity also amplifies the power of the images presented in our case. By keeping the “template” of cubes consistent (scale, isometric projection, white space) the platform instead is designed to focus on the idea itself and encourage play in each brief. There is playfulness in seeing an image as revelation of potential, rather than as an explanation or instruction. We rely on this playfulness for others to question and dare what has been established. For example, GIFs have been used throughout our several seasons of entries as a tool for both storytelling and explore new styles of dynamic imagery. With the combination of clean, consistent templates combined with creative entries that blur architecture with illustration, our contents can be appraised without distraction.

From the extremely tangible to the ephemeral realm of the digital, where do you source your references?

The origins of references used in the platform vary as all contributors approach each brief in different ways. We, as curators of the platform document the results of their research, which present themselves as individual entries. However, we do think a lot of the cube entries stem from personal experience, which is neither tangible or ephemeral. Perhaps, one could argue, the images on Volume 64 often represent ephemeral reactions to semi-tangible realities of past experiences.

On occasion, we, as a platform, need to reference images to create context. For example, we inserted images from the pool of popular images that one could claim are parts of the architectural canon (of course this pool is easy to access through the ephemeral realm of the digital) in the last keynote presentation we did at the University of Edinburgh. These ephemeral ‘popular images’ are extremely important as they give our ephemeral entries context.

How do you collect and organize these?

We have a set of parameters in terms of presenting our cube entries (and by extension the references embedded in them) that we applied rigorously, especially in the earlier years of V64. Organising each entry to “float” in white space and maintain the same scale (1:50) allows for all of them to be read as elements in a larger body of work when displayed side by side. Our platform acts as an online archive of evolving entries, submitted as images by our contributors. Looking through the entries is akin to looking through a group of images that all try to answer the same question of what micro-typology is being explored. In a way, we do not explicitly collect or organise references, but they are embedded into the cube drawings of the contributors.

How and to what extent do your references influence and impact the way you operate as a creative?

As mentioned above, the platform does draw from the existing architectural canon to contextualise itself from time to time. If we find a set of drawings and the related discussions that align with our brief or agenda for the season, we could try to build on thom or see them as a reference point for our entries to compare to.

Would you call yourselves collectors?

This is an interesting question, as it can be argued that we are in fact collectors, but to an extent. We are collectors, yes, but ones that are limited to collecting our own images. The way Volume64 has been designed as a platform, with its contributors and entries means we are constantly in a cycle of generating and collecting images produced by members of our community. The platform functions simultaneously as a repository and generator of images, whose archives grow with each brief that is released.

Could you pick the one reference/drawing that was key to your (creative) journey?

To answer this question we have to acknowledge that there is a disparity between our own references used in launching the platform itself, and what acts as references to our contributors which we cannot strictly speak for. The disparity makes the platform more interesting as the references by the founders are of different nature (curating, organising imagery) to the ones used to create entries by all contributors (specific ideas to respond to briefs).

In terms of the images we used as references to launch the platform prior to original work, the most obvious is Bayer’s Isometric Rendering of the Director’s Office. This drawing was key in shaping how we wished our ideas to be presented, in its clean composition and scale. Though we usually reverted to using an axonometric view when exploring architectural projects of our own, this reference encouraged us to pursue an isometric format for the platform instead as it allows more of an interior perspective. It also inspired our very first brief “The Director’s Office” as we decided to use it to jump-start new approaches to the same idea. Instead of 5x5x5m of the drawing (which we found too large) we decided to pick the more ambiguous 4m dimensions – we found that 5m easily can be split into two floors in a single entry which we wanted to avoid when exploring micro-typologies.

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